Diffident Bangladesh's night of horrors in Antigua

Tamim on Bangladesh's batting: They lose the plot in overs 7-15 (1:56)

Moody says Bangladesh played a brand of cricket to "just stay in the contest and not win it" against Australia (1:56)

When you turn out the lights, the Boogeyman awaits.

You know it's not real, it makes no sense. The looming black shadow in the corner is merely the coat stand upon which you tossed your jacket, just an hour before. The creaking you hear is only in your mind and definitely not caused by the sinister footsteps of an axe-wielding predator. The hairs prickling on your arms are absolutely the product of your overactive imagination rather than a supernatural spidey-sense warning you of impending danger.

The logical part of your brain tries to tell you this in a calming fashion but it's drowned out by the warning screams that something wicked this way comes. All you have to do is switch on the light and all the demons will disappear, but your frozen body refuses to cooperate.

Because the Boogeyman is here.

Australia have always been the bête noire of Bangladesh's World Cup campaigns, regardless of the format, since Steve Waugh's men cruised to a seven-wicket victory in a mere 19.5 overs at Chester-le-Street back in 1999. The following nine meetings between the two sides in ICC tournaments were a copy-paste of one-sided domination; only once had Australia won by fewer than seven wickets and the only two times they batted first they were victorious by 27 runs, in the 2010 T20 World Cup, and by 48 runs in the 2019 ODI version. Bangladesh's best showing was a no-show, a match at the Gabba abandoned due to rain in 2015.

In bilateral series, Bangladesh hardly fared better, but they were improving, even winning a home T20I series 4-1 in 2021. But the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium is no Mirpur ragger; it is the second-highest scoring ground of the tournament.

Nor is it the US, where Bangladesh played the first two matches of their campaign, chasing down 125 against Sri Lanka and posting a score of 109 against South Africa. Only once have they passed 150 during this tournament, 159 against Netherlands in Kingstown.

The previous day in Antigua, USA had fallen short against South Africa in a high-scoring affair, but had batted fearlessly despite the gulf of experience and status between the two sides, posting 176 in response to South Africa's 194.

But the following evening, Bangladesh batted as if they had stage fright, as though all their worst nightmares had come to pass.

Australia had a hand in this, of course. Mitchell Starc's first over can at times be a mix of the wayward and the sublime, but his first five balls were full, swinging and on target; the sort of deliveries you watch through the gaps between your fingers as you cover your eyes, if you're a fan of the batting side. The third delivery was the killer blow and Tanzid Hassan the victim as he played too far back and toe-ended the ball onto the ground and into his stumps.

The second over was a masterclass in Josh Hazlewood's miserliness, bowling short of a length on tight lines, that ended in a maiden.

By the end of the third over, Bangladesh were 8 for 1 and everyone who had seen this movie was screaming, don't answer the door, don't leave the house, don't answer the phone, but most of all, DON'T SCREAM.

The energetic group of flag-waving Bangladesh fans in the middle tier of the Sir Curtly Ambrose Stand were oblivious to the signs. When Najmul Hossein Shanto charged down the track to pummel Hazlewood over the long-on boundary, they erupted with delight and the glimpses of aggression from Litton Das were cheered noisily.



But horror lovers know the most dangerous plot twist always strikes just as the audience is starting to relax; in Bangladesh's case, IT was Adam Zampa lurking in the gutter, clown face on, waiting to snare his first victim. With the first two balls of his second over, he drew Litton outside his off stump. The third delivery was straighter and Litton misjudged his sweep, swiping at air as the ball deflected off his back pad and into the timbers.

From there the runs largely dried up and the wickets seemed as inevitable as a seemingly dead villain bursting back to life for one more knife thrust. Bangladesh batted as though a score above 140 was beyond them. It was not, of course. There is plenty of talent in their line-up, but Australia have ways of strangling their self-belief.

Even a Pat Cummins hat-trick, his first in international cricket, had a perfunctory air, compounded by the belated and lukewarm celebration of a bowler who had forgotten he was on one. Ho hum, a hat-trick. What else would you expect from Australia when they're playing Bangladesh at a World Cup?

David Warner and Travis Head played their customary roles as opening bludgeoners and two wickets to Rishad Hossein were mere red herrings to Bangladesh's inexorable fate.

Glenn Maxwell needed just six balls to suggest he has shaken off the scratchiness that has hovered over his tournament. It was in the natural order that he would rediscover his mojo against Bangladesh.

When the showers that had frequently interrupted proceedings grew heavier, the damage had been well and truly done. And as the rain blew horizontally across the stadium, there was no need to check the DLS equations; Warner and Head had taken care of that.

It was long past midnight - thanks to the ICC's infernal insistence on late-night screenings - and it was time to turn the floodlights off.

But as Australia marched on, more boxes ticked on their World Cup planning sheet, another Boogeyman lies in wait for Bangladesh in two days' time.

And if someone can't find the light switch before India arrive, Bangladesh may be in for another fright night.